2006 marked the 300th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin's birth.
While the resulting flurry of activity was nowhere more evident
than in his adopted city of Philadelphia, Americans across
the country—and admirers around the world—paused to
consider the career of the multifaceted Dr. Franklin, oldest
signer of the Declaration of Independence. From lightning
rods to proverbs to the characteristic fur cap he wore in
later years, Franklin combined an ethic of self-accomplishment
through hard and honest work with a sophisticated wit and
a practical benevolence that kept him much in the public eye.
At the Library of Congress, Franklin's achievements were explored
in an exhibit of original Franklin materials titled Benjamin
Franklin: In His Own Words.
Born in Boston on January 17, 1706, as the youngest son of
an immigrant father, Benjamin Franklin lived until April
17, 1790, three months past his 84th birthday. During his
lifetime he witnessed dramatic changes in North American life—and
contributed greatly to those changes, especially in the areas
of communication, technological innovation, and politics.
As a printer and postmaster, Franklin's early work to disseminate
news and create communication networks among the British colonies
contributed directly to their subsequent unification. With
little formal education, Franklin founded scholarly societies,
colleges, and libraries, but also formulated practical inventions
such as bifocals and the freestanding Pennsylvania stove.
Present at the signing of the Declaration, Benjamin Franklin
also lived long enough to see the adoption of the United States
Constitution, having served his new country as a representative
to France in the interim. Despite his successes, Franklin
continued to identify himself as an artisan throughout his
life, reinforcing his lifelong commitment to doing good works
in the world.
Given his background and interests, Franklin would no doubt
have valued the expansive resources of the Internet. This
Finding Franklin resource guide provides a starting point
for researching Benjamin Franklin in a rapidly digitizing
age, starting with the Library of Congress and moving outward
to encompass additional materials. Many Library of Congress
materials can be partially if not fully accessed on the World
Wide Web, while many of the printed items in the Library's
collections will be available at local research libraries
or can be accessed through Interlibrary Loan. Sections of
the guide therefore point to Library of Congress digitized
materials, Library of Congress printed materials, and useful
resources elsewhere on the Web.
Benjamin Franklin's long and accomplished life can be approached
through a wide variety of topics and understood from many
perspectives. He served multiple roles in early American
society, and continues to serve as a role model and an icon